Thursday, May 31, 2012

The city’s roar

Popping with color. 2:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, May 31, 2012.  Very warm yesterday, overcast but bearable. Except for the traffic in midtown/East/West and along the avenues both north and south.

Down at Michael’s, the city’s roar was slightly subdued (chilled might be another word) – but only slightly.  Nevertheless, it was a classic Wednesday, and when you read through, you can catch the drift of the clientele that defines this chic and art-filled den of conjurers, dramatists, coin-gatherers and ego-respiring hawkers of The Word.

Loreal and Joanna both grace Michael's.
Michael McCarty, the proprietor, is one of the original California cuisine chef/ restaurateurs in post-Fifties America. So the quality of his menu is foremost. He’s also a personality who extends his hand to as many guests as possible, greeting them like an ebullient good will ambassador. He’s the CEO around the place. He’s seconded by his equally personable and out-going General Manager Steve Millington.

The hospitality is informal, but the place is run impeccably. The waitstaff, the busboys, bartenders and the breakfast and lunch time receptionists, Joanna and Loreal are your friend at the restaurant: pleasant and helpful. Each guest is welcome, and the mission is to accommodate. That’s a big draw, even for the high mucky-mucks who come through those doors.

Michael, himself, has made friendships with all kinds of people, including the rich and famous, all over the world. Sometimes they’re among the clientele, both here in New York and in Santa Monica. But if they weren’t, it wouldn’t make a difference, because Michael’s is at lunch, a business venue, in a town of business venues de luxe. There are several and many of Michael’s clients also patronize them, often according to the business at hand. Each has its own style and signature and clientele allure.

Michael’s, however, is the closest thing to an exchange in the modern media business, be it print, digital, theatrical, television, film et al. And bankers and promoters; yes don’t forget ballyhoo and the checkbook. You can feel the sense of business going on, along with all the smiles and the hahaha’s. It’s vanity fair, early 21st century.
My view of the room where I can see them coming and going. And vice versa.
Also, there is the quieter side – although no less serious – of Michael’s: the Garden room overlooking the courtyard of the famous Rockefeller Art Deco apartment buildings on West 54th and 55th Street. The bankers, the executives, the hedge fund honchos and corporate business men and women. The wall of glass facing the courtyard is restful and smart-looking too.

Yesterday’s roster included some prominent New York women of fashion and philanthropy as serious as business: Somers Farkas, Mary McFadden, Saundra Whitney and Anne Eisenhower. Anne was celebrating a birthday. Across the aisle: Political opinion-maker and television commentator Robert Zimmerman with Tom Bristowe and Mark Hanson.

Mary McFadden.
Star Jones.
Rob Weisbach.
David Carey.
Warren Lieberfarb.
Ambassador John Loeb.
Over their shoulders:  Christy Ferer, the tycooness of Vidcom (you watch her stuff anytime you’re watch the tube in a New York hotel room). Plus: Barry Frey, Exec VP of Cablevision, with Gerry Byrne, media and entertainment exec/consultant and avid Michael’s client.

Under the window: Star Jones, the irrepressible, with Lola Ogunnaike, next door to Peter Brown, the public relations exec who keeps peoples’ names out  of the papers, with Andrew Rosenthal.

Also: fashion executive and commentator Fern Mallis with Betsy Berg, of the Agency Group; Jack Welch (the very same) with CNBC’s Joe Kernan; Investment banker Stan Shuman with the real media and entertainment tycoon, Herb Siegel – both at their favorite table; Jay Fielden of Town & Country;  Democratic National Committee honcho, political insider, fund-raiser, author Andy Tobias. Two tables over, Diane Clehane, Michael’s very own Brenda Starr, with Maile Carpenter and Vicki Wellington, the forces behind the Food Channel’s magazine. So wudja think of the menu, girls?

Just next door: literary agent Rob Weisbach with Mike Scotti and Erin Cox, Maureen Reidy, President and CEO of the Argus Group – media go-to gang; Judy Price, founder of the National Jewelry Institute; Lorna Graev, a big supporter and driving force behind Fountain House, the source of solutions for many of us suffering from Depression (the kind in our heads).

Lorna was with NYSD’s Shanghai Diarist, Jeanne Lawrence. Jeanne’s a full time world traveler when she isn’t at home in New York, San Francisco, La Jolla or Shanghai, is off to France where her daughter is finishing up at Cordon Bleu. Then mother-daughter are off to Capri, then Greece, then back home out West. Wouldn’t you like to have that mileage?

Nearby: David Carey, President of Hearst Magazines; Amy Astley of Teen Vogue, Shari (Mrs. Ed) Rollins, of Corcoran’s (real estate brokers) Million Dollar Club; Joel Moser; Chris Meigher of Quest with Warburg Realty’s Richard Steinberg; media mogul Tom Freston with Ralph Baruch, one of the men who started it Viacom, as well its longtime Prez and CEO. Ever hear of Viacom?

Meanwhile, onward: Warren Lieberfarb, media/digital investment consultant/ adviser, known in the business as the “architect of the DVD;” Elizabeth Musmanno of the Musmanno Group (fashion marketing, advertising, public relations consulting), Glenn Rutherford; in the bay, Table One, Charlie Rose, now burning his media candle at both ends on PBS and CBS; Nickie Robinson of GoodGirl PR.

I was lunching with Ambassador John Loeb who with his wife Sharon Handler is off to spend a month in London at their Eaton Square flat. John, who has been president of the Winston Churchill Foundation, has been traveling to London since he was a very young man, right after the War, and has been a self-confessed Anglophile ever since. I see what he means. A few years ago he gave himself a fantastic birthday party at Blenheim for several hundred of his friends and associates.

Meanwhile last night over at the Walter Reader Theater
at Lincoln Center, the Yamaha Music and Wellness Institute presented the legendary piano virtuoso Byron Janis with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his incredible achievements (and that is an understatement in Byron’s case), as an artist. Deborah Norville hosted the evening which included special performances and appearances in Maestro Janis’ honor.
Mother Dolores Hart, Maria Cooper Janis, Byron Janis, and Deborah Norville. Photos: Richard Lewin.
The legendary piano virtuoso plays for the crowd.
I got this e-mail message late last week from a longtime friend of mine in Los Angeles, James Egan who is a writer/producer and documentary filmmaker. I thought I’d share it because there may be others among us whose interest is piqued, as is mine.

James, whom I have known since the late 70s when both of us migrated to LaLaLand, In Search Of ... is drawn to both the purposeful and the unusual in the arts and culture. Meaningful. Let’s not forget that one.


I just learned that next week the New York Times will be featuring the documentary I am producing about Frank Morgan, a brilliant alto sax player, protégé of Charlie Parker, whose life and career were plagued by drugs and jail before he mounted an amazing comeback. His beautiful music and dramatic story will be portrayed in Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Project, to be directed by N.C. Heikin (Kimjongilia).
I have partnered with Michael Connelly, best-selling author, who is a huge fan of Frank Morgan. Mr. Connelly's famous character Harry Bosch solves crimes while listening to Frank's sweet Bebop sound. We have raised equity to cover the production costs but we still need funds to cover post-production. That's why we've started a Kickstarter campaign.  As you may know, Kickstarter is a crowd-funding website which gives you a chance to participate in the making of the film.

Please check out our Kickstarter page and become a backer.  Any amount helps and there are some very cool rewards.  Proceeds generated from the film will be used to support jazz music programs for youth at risk. Thanks in advance.

James Egan
Sound of Redemption